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For the distracted mother to assuage
Her grief with, as she might --But where, oh where
Is traceable a vestige of the notes
That ruled those dances, wild in character?
-Deep underground ?-Or in the upper air,
On the shrill wind of midnight? or where floats
O'er twilight fields the autumn gossamer?' In the twenty first sonnet of the series, there occurs a strange catacbresis, if we may not rather term it metaphor run mad. Memory is described as breaking forth from her unworthy seat, • the cloudy stall of Time;' the precise import of which expressions we do not quite enter into. And then to the Poet's eye,
this metaphysical abstraction is embodied in a palpable form— Her
glistening tresses bound :' this would seein bold enough ; yet the Author might thiok himself justified in venturing thus far by the exquisite line of Collins,
• And Hope enchanted smiled, and waved her golden hair.' But Mr. Wordsworth wants just that one thing which Colling possessed in perfection—taste. The Author of the Ode on the Passions knew by iostinct the precise boundary line between the sublime and the extravagant, between figure and nonsense. He never for a moment loses himself amid his own imagery, or confounds the figurative with the physical. But Mr. Wordsworth goes on to define the appearance of the glistening tresses of Mewory, and to compare them to golden locks of birch ;' and then forgetting altogether, as it should seem, the imaginary being he bas conjured up, his mind fastens upon the new idea, one that relates to a simple object of perception :
- golden locks of birch that rise and fall
On gales that breathe too gently to recal
Aught of the fading year's inclemency.' If these last lines have any intelligible connexion with the idea of Memory as introduced in the foregoing part of the stanza, we confess that it eludes our dull apprehensions.
Vaudracour and Julia is a tale in blank verse, which was originally intended, we presume, to form av episode in some future portion of “ 'The Excursion.” The incidents are stated to be facts, no invention having as to them been exercised. It is a touching and melancholy tale of unfortunate love, and told in Mr. Wordsworth’s happiest manner. From the lyrical pieces which follow it in order, we cannot do otherwise than select the very beautiful stanzas entitled • LAMENT OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS,
ON THE EVE OF A NEW YEAR. «« Smile of the Moon for so I name That silent greeting from above;
A gentle flash of light that came
From Her whom drooping Captives love ;
Or art thou of still higher birth?
Thou that didst part the clouds of earth,
My torpor to reprove !
• “ Bright boon of pitying Heaven-alas,
I may not trust thy placid cheer !
Pondering that Time to-night will pass
The threshold of another year ;
For years to me are sad and dull;
My very moments are too full
Of hopelessness and fear.
** -And yet the soul-awakening gleam,
That struck perchance the farthest cone
Of Scotland's rocky wilds, did seem
To visit me and me alone;
Me, unapproach'd by any friend,
Save those who to my sorrows lend
Tears due unto their own.
6" To-night, the church-tower bells shall ring,
Through these wide realms, a festive peal;
To the new year a welcoming ;
A tuneful offering for the weal
Of happy millions lulled in sleep;
While I am forced to watch and weep,
By wounds that may not heal.
«s« Born all too high, by wedlock raised
Still higher-to be cast thus low!
Would that mine eyes had never gaz'd
On aught of more ambitious show
Than the sweet flow'rets of the fields !
- It is my royal state that yields
This bitterness of woe.
" " Yet how?-for I, if there be truth
In the world's voice, was passing fair ;
And beauty, for confiding youth,
Those shocks of passion can prepare
That kill the bloom before its time,
And blanch, without the Owner's crime,
The most resplendent hair.
«« Unblest distinctions ! showered on me
To bind a lingering life in chains ;
All that could quit my grasp or filee,
Is gone ;-but not the subtle stains
Fixed in the spirit; for even here
Can I be proud that jealous fear
Of what I was remains.
" " A woman rules my prison's key;
A sister Queen, against the bent
or law and holiest sympathy,
Detains me-doubtful of the event ;
Great God, who feel'st for my distress,
My thoughts are all that I possess,
O keep them innoceni !
•“ Farewell for ever human aid,
Which abject mortals vainly court !
By friends deceived, by foes betrayed,
of fears the prey, of hopes the sport,
Nought but the world-redeeming Cross
Is able to supply my loss,
My burthen to support.
«« Hark! the death.note of the year,
Sounded by the castle-clock!"-
From her sunk eyes a stagnant tear
Stole forth, unsettled by the shock;
But oft the woods renewed their green,
Ere the tir'd head of Scotland's Queen
Repos'd upon the block !' pp. 92-95. The odes are the least pleasing compositions in the volume, being for the most part very affected and very enigmatical. There are, however, some exceptions. The one bearing date September, 1816, merits transcription as a varied specimen of the contents of the volume.
• The sylvan slopes with corn-clad fields
Are hung, as if with golden shields,
Bright trophies of the sun!
Like a fair sister of the sky,
Unruffled doth the blue Lake lie,
The Mountains looking on.
• And, sooth to say, yon vocal Grove
Albeit uninspired by love,
By love untaught to ring,
May well afford to mortal ear,
An impulse more profoundly dear
Than music of the Spring.
• For that from turbulence and heat
Proceeds, from some uneasy seat
In Nature's struggling frame,
Some region of impatient life ;
And jealousy, and quivering strife,
Therein a portion claim.
This, this is holy:-while I hear
These vespers of another year,
This hymn of thanks and praise,
My spirit seems to mount above
The anxieties of human love,
And carth's precarious days.
• But list !-though winter storms be nigh,
Unchecked is that soft harmony :
There lives Who can provide
For all his creatures ; and in Him,
Even like the radiant Seraphim,
These Choristers confide. pp. 187–188.
There is among the Inscriptions also, a short piece written in
a style with which we have not been accustomed to meet in our
• Not seldom, clad in radiant vest,
Deceitfully goes forth the Morn;
Not seldom Evening in the west
Sinks smilingly forsworn.
• The smoothest seas will sometimes prove,
To the confiding bark, untrue ;
And, if she trust the stars above,
They can be treacherous too.
• The umbrageous Oak, in pomp outspread,
Full oft, when storms the welkin rend,
Draws lightning down upon the head
It promis'd to defend.
• But Thou art true, incarnate Lord!
Who didst vouchsafe for man to die
Thy smile is sure, thy plighted word
No change can falsify!
• I bent before thy gracious throne,
And asked for peace with suppliant knee;
And peace was given,-nor peace alone,
But faith, and hope, and extacy!' pp.
171-172 We can make room for only two more specimens: they are in themselves sufficient to justify all the praise that has been bestowed on Mr. Wordsworth's sonnets.
· The Stars are mansions built by Nature's hand;
And, haply, there the spirits of the blest
Live, clothed in radiance, their immortal vest ;
Huge Ocean frames, within his yellow strand,
A habitation marvellously planned,
For life to occupy in love and rest ;
All that we see is dome, or vault, or nest,
Or fort, erected at her sage command.
Is this a vernal thought ? Even so, the Spring
Gave it while cares were weighing on my heart,
Mid song of birds and insects murmuring;
And while the youthful year's prolific art-
Of bud, leaf, blade and flower-was fashioning
Abodes, where self-disturbance hath no part.'
The other sonnet is on the death of his late Majesty.
• Ward of the Law !_dread Shadow of a King!
Whose realm had dwindled to one stately room ;
Whose universe was gloom immers'd in gloom,
Darkness as thick as life o'er life could fling,
Yet haply cheered with some faint glimmering
Of Faith and Hope ; if thou by nature's doom
Gently hast sunk into the quiet tomb,
Why should we bend in grief, to sorrow cling,
When thankfulness were best?- Fresh-flowing tears,
Or, where tears flow not, sigh succeeding sigh,
Yield to such after-thought the sole reply
Which justly it can claim. The Nation hears
In this deep knell-silent for threescore years,
An unexampled voice of awful memory!' “ The Prioress's Tale" from Chaucer, is a very ill-chosen subject for the experiment of exhibiting the Father of English Poetry in a modern form. The legend is so exquisitely absurd, that it must have been designed as a burlesque on the lying martyrological wonders of the Romish priesthood. It is that of a poor innocent child who had his throat cut by some wicked Jews, because he was too fond of singing Ave Maria, but wbo continued, by aid of the blessed Virgin, to reiterate the same articulate sounds which he had been wont to utter while living, till his corpse was found, and then, was able to give information against his murderers; but the spirit could not obtain its discharge till a grain was taken off of bis tongue which the Virgin had placed there. When Chaucer wrote, such fables were not too gross for the vulgar credulity ; but we know not for what purpose they are transplanted into modern poetry. To Mr. Wordsworth, indeed, we can conceive that such tales would recommend themselves by their very puerility ; that he would be even melted into tears by the affected solemnity of a sly old humorist like Chaucer; and that what was meant by him for satire, might be inistaken by our Author for pathos. - We deem it quite unnecessary to repeat that our respect for Mr. Wordsworth's talents remains unaltered. The copious extracts we have given from the present volume, sufficiently evince that those talents are of a very high order. But we have so fully expressed our opinion on this point, in our reviews of the Excursion,* and of “ The White Doe of Rylstone,” + as well as subsequently in noticing the unfortunate pair, Peter Bell and Benjamin the Waggoner, I that we will not run the hazard of wearying our readers by saying more upon the subject. It is certain, that while he has been as a poet ridiculously,